What is the hottest temperature ever recorded? Where on Earth was it?

·4 min read

When the summer months bear down and the sun seems impossibly hot, peaking temperatures can feel oppressive, whether humid or dry, and prompt the question, "has it ever been hotter than this?!"

Much of the time the answer to that question will be yes. Despite the planet’s consistent warming due to climate change, and the steady increase in the year’s highest temperatures, Earth has been this hot before.

Here’s a guide to the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, which country it’s in, and at what point heat becomes unlivable for humans.

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What is the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth?

The highest temperature on record belongs to California’s Death Valley which, in 1913, reached a temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, or 56.7 degrees Celsius, Al Jazeera reports.

By region, the hottest temperatures ever recorded are:

  • Africa: 131 F (Tunisia, 1931)

  • Asia: 129 F (Iran 2017)

  • Europe: 119.8 F (Italy 2021)

  • Antarctica 69.3 F (Seymour Island 2020)

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Do humans live in Death Valley?

Yes, people live in Death Valley. According to the 2020 Census, that population number is around 856.

What is the hottest temperature a human can survive?

It really depends on the conditions. It is easier for humans to survive dry heat than extreme humidity, as excessive moisture in the air slows the natural cooling process of the body by slowing the evaporation process of sweat.

UCLA climate researcher Chad Thackeray told USA Today in an email that it is generally thought that exposure to wet bulb temperatures of 95F or greater for at least 6 hours is the threshold for human survival. Wet bulb temperature refers to the metric used to express the combined impacts of extreme temperature and humidity.

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What is the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth?

The coldest temperature ever recorded is -128.6°F, in Vostok Station, Antarctica in 1983.

One colder temperature exists, however. In 2010 a temperature of -135.8F was recorded in East Antarctica via NASA satellite. This recording does not get to wear the ‘coldest ever’ crown though, as it was not measured with a thermometer.

Has the Earth ever been hotter than it is now?

Yes, technically. Our planet is many billions of years old, and during its earliest days the Earth was molten, meaning its surface temperatures could have exceeded 3,600° F.

In the period since humans have inhabited the planet and begun recording temperatures, recent years are certainly proving to be hotter, scientists believe from the warming of our climate due to greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, in 2021, a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reported that the planet’s global surface temperature has increased by approximately 1.9F compared to the average from 1850 –1900. This phenomenon has not been seen since prior to the last ice age, 125,000 years ago.

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What are the top 5 hottest years on record?

Given the climate’s unequivocal warming trend, the top five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2015. As it stands the hottest years, according to NASA have been:

  • 2016

  • 2020

  • 2019

  • 2017

  • 2015

It is important to note that there are some disagreements on the order of the list. "There are slight methodological differences between global temperature datasets from various agencies," Thackeray reports.

A "La Nina" pattern — uncharacteristically cool sea surface temperatures in the Tropical Pacific is the principal reason why 2021 falls just outside the top 5 hottest years, Thackeray explains.

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What is the hottest place in the USA?

According to AccuWeather, the ten hottest cities in the the U.S. are:

Phoenix, AZ

Las Vegas, NV

Tucson, AZ

Riverside, CA

San Antonio, TX

Miami, FL

Houston, TX

Fresno, CA

Dallas, TX

Orlando, FL

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the hottest temperature ever recorded? Here's what we know.